Many of us work in the startup ecosystem. We understand the language of growth and retention and startup culture. But how many of us understand the complicated inner financial workings of startup investment?
When was the last time your read up on the JOBS act and its impact on the startup ecosystem?
According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer, our trust in the financial sector reached an all-time low in 2014. Of course, our lack of trust in longstanding financial institutions does not inspire us to delve deeper.
The OurCrowd team in Jerusalem is working to fight that erosion of trust. In less than two years, the OurCrowd community has grown from a nascent idea to over 7,000 investing global members. How have they accomplished such a feat? Content and community.
In the simplest of terms, their model for success looks like this: Content creates trust. Trust creates community.
I spoke with Zack Miller, Head of Community, about how community and content marketing go hand-in-hand. Today, he shares with you:
- Why you should use content to build community
- Their content strategy playbook and how you can take away their best practices
- How they transform passive consumers into active community members – often at a success rate of over 50%.
After reading this, you should have a clear idea of how you might be able to integrate your content and community strategies.
OurCrowd is no run-of-the-mill community. It’s a rather organized, wealthy, motivated group, funneling their investments and time into building startups.
Zack sums up the mission nicely: “Together with our community, we invest in the next generation of Googles, Apples, and Facebooks.”
Here’s how it works: “We take the best of angel funding and venture capital and mix them together. Instead of writing a big check, we create an investment platform where people can pick and choose… We’re not a fundraising platform [like Kickstarter]. We sit at the same table as the investors. After we make an investment – just like a VC firm – our community of investors helps nurture companies as they make their way through to the next stage.”
Are you still a little confused? That’s perfectly okay. In fact, that’s rather convenient.
The gap in knowledge in this area is exactly the reason why content is so vital to creating community: Great content educates, empowers, and onboards new members. Then it creates a space for community educators to give back and solidifies a community’s common terms and ideas.
All of this content work contributes to building a larger “Sense of Community.”
Content and Community: BFFs
Many of us think of content as purely a marketing tool. But, as explained above, it is much more than that. Content builds bonds, conversations, common symbols and language, and – ultimately – trust.
That trust is the key building block of community. Without it, you will not be able to build a community. Period.
Content can work in any community to build stronger bonds. For instance, you would think investing is a solo journey, every man or woman for him or herself. The truth is that new investors are desperate for content and education, and they feel a shared sense of purpose when they invest together.
“Our investors talk about the ‘investment experience’ around startups. We had always thought of it as a dispassionate process, but there is a feeling of joint experience in investing in the same company.” That’s why sharing content around the community journey solidifies this experience.
“Trust is the grease behind the wheel. You sell trust in finance. You see the degradation of the NYC-based finance companies. The next generation of investment is emerging on the West Coast with the same raison d’être of startups.”
“Community is the way we can win back trust in finance.” And content paves the way.
Every industry has more room to carve out trust and to share more knowledge. So how do you identify where you can be most helpful?
Building Your Content Strategy Around Community
In your community, “You must identify a gap in knowledge,” says Zack. That’s where all your content should live.
“In the private investing world, there is little info about how to build a portfolio and how to judge companies. Some of our investors are old-timers and some are new-timers, so we do a lot of education on both sides.”
The beauty of investing in a community-centric content strategy is that it brings in relevant leads, uplifts people in the community who can educate others, and shares your brand all at the same time.
This is how content can and should work within a community strategy, and this is exactly how OurCrowd does this.
The OurCrowd Content Strategy in a Nutshell
Here is how OurCrowd’s content strategy works and exactly how these pieces fit into their larger strategy:
Summits: The team held offline events even before they went on to launch their platform, building trust and relationships in the investing community at large. Their last summit included over 600 community members.
“Our entire company was involved planning the summit,” explains Zack. “We had people fly in to our HQ (Jerusalem) from 27 countries.”
Zack says their success is a result of the common experience they create: “Investing in startups is a team sport: connecting founders and investors. That feedback loop is super powerful in helping to identify good investment candidates.”
And in financial terms, the Summit was a major success: “We did some live crowdfunding, and $4M was deployed in the first 24 hours.”
Local Events: “We have an investor relations team that handles some of our smaller events.” These keep excitement going between larger community events.
- Craft events around your community
- Invest the whole team in the process
- Create a “shared experience” or common goal around the group
- Do smaller satellite events between large community events
- Even before you launch a product, it’s a good idea to start events to build relationships.
OurCrowd currently runs two types of webinars. One type is around a specific investment opportunity.
“We do that every time we launch an investment opportunity on our website. As we launch an opportunity, we invite in our investors to a one-hour session with us moderating and the entrepreneur pitching his/her company. The entrepreneur pitches for about 40 minutes and we do 20 minutes of Q&A. These events are exclusive to members of our community.” These webinars include active investors from 30+ countries, says Zack.
“The other type is part of Teach In Tuesdays (twice per month) and open beyond just our members. The openness and learning opportunity provides a good way to learn about OurCrowd and what we do as well.” Here is the most recent example.
“Frequently, we’ll invite in a domain expert (say, investing in consumer/retail sector).” For the last event, they invited “a private equity investor with a lot of experience in the field to talk about what makes a good investment in his model.”
Each webinar brings in anywhere from 50 all the way up to 400 attendees.
“We identify topics we feel we need to cover that are pertinent to the investing process of ecosystem. For example, we had an IPO last September for ReWalk (RWLK). That was a new process for us and our investors, so we addressed that topic by inviting in an investment banker who had taken numerous companies public. Things like that. We look for subject matter experts.”
- Invite experts in your community to share their knowledge.
- Run these on a regular schedule. This creates a shared ritual in your community.
- Have events just for members and some for non-members. This encourages people to make the leap to membership after their first public webinar.
- Whatever challenge is going on in your community, find someone to teach you through the process.
OurCrowd has one of the only blogs in the startup crowd investing space. This is the place to go to find information about this niche. This is what they’ve carved out for themselves.
“In the early days, I spent a lot of my time writing,” says Zack. He’s been building content in the financial sector for 15 years, so he’s perfectly positioned to kickstart content like this. In his own words: “I’m an investor, community manager, and copy writer, so I’m well suited for that. Because of my background and experience writing investment coursework at sites like Wall Street Survivor and LearnVest, I was well positioned to know the pain points our investors feel.”
Investing in a company blog can be a major move for an early-stage startup, but crafting this content is what lays the groundwork for later community success. And it doesn’t have to be a solo venture by one person on your team — in fact, you should avoid that at all costs.
“We’ve done a good job internally on our marketing team to build out the skillsets. Many of us are now writing on the blog.”
- Don’t go solo. Blogging is a team effort.
- Kickstart a blog with the biggest domain expert on your team, who can get the quality and tone right from the start. Then train others.
- Invest in a blog. It builds trust, which builds community.
Why go about creating entire books? “A lot of the information that exists about personal finance and investing does not exist in the private investing world, so we’ve had to define terms and create e-books.”
Here’s how the process works: “We can write an e-book every quarter at this point. Our team writes them (we even had a very talented intern write our most recent one).” And they’re worth the effort because “they get thousands of downloads,” spreading the knowledge of the team and building more connections.
- Create a process for writing e-books. Again, get many team members involved.
- Set goals for e-book production. One per year? One per quarter? Just set a goal and go.
- The goal of the e-book is to solidify trust and thought leadership. Each download builds awareness.
OurCrowd has its own YouTube channel, where they upload community videos and interviews with the team.
The content ranges from interviews with the team on Bloomberg to talks with leading investors in the space. They don’t spend time creating YouTube content just for the sake of creating it. Rather, it ties into the other content that they produce.
- Use content you are already creating to repurpose into video content, such as recording webinars or interviews.
- Share video every time someone on your team is in the media. This builds further trust.
- Leverage your community’s knowledge in interviews that you can share on YouTube.
From Content Consumers to Community Members
Just getting people to read your content or listen to your webinars is not enough. For OurCrowd, the ultimate “call to action” is to invest in the companies they curate on their platform. This is how they measure community involvement.
For any content strategy to work as a community-building tool, there has to be a community call-to-action as well. After you’ve built content, this is the next step.
This is also where software comes in. The team uses Hubspot to automate the transition from consumer to community member.
“We use HubSpot as marketing automation tool. We have ebooks, videos, webinars at the top of the funnel, so the automated content delivery that happens after someone enters the top of the funnel depends on whether the person is interested in global investing, the dynamics of the financing, or is an entrepreneur, for example.”
“We get people engaged with content and then sub-segment qualified investors. We get them to a virtual or real event, where they can see that there are real people with real experience powering our company. From there, conversion rates to become an investor can be over 50%.”
When was the last time your outreach had a 50% conversion rate?
Conclusion: From Community Members to Advocates
Last September, OurCrowd’s community helped ReWalk through the IPO process. They have helped startups, such as BillGuard and BioCatch, reach the next level.
You could say that OurCrowd’s community is already a success, but this is only the beginning for this community. Now that a solid community foundation is in place, they’re poised to take the crowd investment world by storm.
The next step: a formal advocacy program for their most engaged members.
“We’re using an Advocacy marketing platform (Influitive) and starting a Champion group. We’re saying, ‘You’ve participated in growing or invested a certain amount of money with us, now we’ll roll out special tracks for you at conferences, unique quarterly phone calls, or other incentives.”
“We’re modeling this after a frequent flier program: you’re either in the VIP group or you’re on your way there.”
Why invest so much in people who are already active?
“The community is the crux of the entire value proposition we are creating.” Without it, there would be no crowd investments, no company-building, no OurCrowd. With it, they’re ready to usher in a new era of investing, powered by the people.